Vanished Worlds, Enduring People

Opening a Transatlantic World

Francisco López de Gómara. La Historia General de Las Indias. Anuers: Martin Nucio, 1554. [view]

Gómara, a priest from Seville who never visited Mexico, was the first historian to write a book about its conquest. Secretary and chaplain to Cortés from 1541 until his death in 1547, Gómara wrote his History, first published in 1553, as a commemoration of his employer’s achievements. Bartolomé de las Casas, who disapproved of Gómara’s unconditional support of Cortés’s ruthless treatment of the Indians, vigorously condemned it. Perhaps because of Las Casas’s objections, Spain’s Prince Philip quickly suppressed the book. This prohibition, however, had little effect on its circulation throughout the rest of Europe. The edition shown above, published in Antwerp, includes the first known depiction of a buffalo, probably drawn from a description.

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